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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: What I learned about playing jazz ont he tenor


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/373544

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 03/13/2021:  17:08:33


So... when I got my old Epiphone made Bruno, the first thing I had to face was the incredible volume. The little beast was designed to cut through a full band with no amplification. It is loud! It is mahogany and maple, a drum head, steel strings and bell brass and it is freaking loud! First of all, I had to get over the fact that even though I have played guitar, 5 string banjo and mandolin for over 20 years... and am pretty dang good on them, and even though the tenor is tuned in 5ths like the mandolin, the space between the frets is much wider... I would make a ton of mistakes and they would sound like a train wreck! Yes, anyone in the house would complain even with the door shut. Then came another issue. I have banjo heroes: Johnny St. Cyr, Emmanuel Sayles, Poppa French, Elmer Snowden, Harry Reser, Eddie Peabody, Roy Smeck, Eddy Davis, Buddy Wachter, Howard Alden, etc, etc. So, I got books, videos, recordings and I began learning solos and rhythm from them. After a year or so, I got fed up. I realized, I was not playing music like I would on other instruments... I was memorizing the music of others. That is no fun! None of my heroes copied each other; they all had their own styles. So, I laid it down for almost a year. Then, armed with the McNeil Method to get my chords and scales down, and the old Firehouse Jazz band songbook (freaking awesome, BTW!), I began figuring out how to play the tenor banjo MY WAY!!! My way is my own. I love chord melody and voice leading. I rarely play single note solos on any instrument (Travis/Atkins style on guitar, with Joe Pass and Ted Green as major heroes). So, I figured out how to follow the melody in playing rhythm chords... voicing them with the melody on the 4th string, usually 4 to the bar or western swing "sock style". It is very different than the washboard rhythms of a lot of dixieland players.... but, it fits my ear... and is kind of along the lines of the old New Orleans saying, "Don't play faster than you can walk." It is busier than Eddy Davis' elegant playing.... but, I like it. It fits my style. With a band though, I'd reduce it big time. I'm doing all chord melody on the breaks, too and LOVING IT! I finally understand now, what Joe Pass meant when he said, "There are only 3 types of chords - Major, minor and Dom7... everything else is just altering or adding a note to those."

Now.... the old tenor is fun and truly mine!

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 03/13/2021:  17:19:12


I’m looking for some ear candy. Got any samples?

Omeboy - Posted - 03/13/2021:  17:25:37


Given your five-string clawhammer background, you might have progressed more quickly with a plectrum banjo. You would have already understood the "drop C tuning." Oh well, something else for you to explore in the future.

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 03/13/2021:  17:27:48


quote:

Originally posted by aintbrokejustbadlybent

I’m looking for some ear candy. Got any samples?






Yeah, but since I had to re-register, I have to post 3 new topics before any links...  I'll try to think of something worthwhile for a third post.  Of course, I remembered my old password just after creating the new account... ugh!!!

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 03/13/2021:  17:31:59


quote:

Originally posted by Omeboy

Given your five-string clawhammer background, you might have progressed more quickly with a plectrum banjo. You would have already understood the "drop C tuning." Oh well, something else for you to explore in the future.






Yeah, I sure did!  Man, I was tearing it up in my 5 string, minus the 5th string.  But, I got obsessive about the action and ended up breaking the heel!!!!!!!   Dang cheap 70s  Japanese Orpheum..... So, I decided to buy quality, preferably antique banjos or learn to build them myself.  The tenor was a STEAL!!!!!!!!!  I literally paid $75 for an Epiphone made, 100 year old instrument in excellent condition.  Lightening hasn't struck twich though.

tdennis - Posted - 03/13/2021:  19:59:49


Banjo stream of consciousness, don't ever stop !

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 03/14/2021:  10:41:26


So, I figured out how to follow the melody in playing rhythm chords... voicing them with the melody on the 4th string,???



Interesting! Us plectrum players mostly do melody on the first string... would love to hear you!

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 03/14/2021:  11:16:31


quote:

Originally posted by guitarbanjoman

So, I figured out how to follow the melody in playing rhythm chords... voicing them with the melody on the 4th string,???



Interesting! Us plectrum players mostly do melody on the first string... would love to hear you!






I was finally able to post a couple of links to tunes: A couple of tunes... lets see if this works... - Discussion Forums - Banjo Hangout

craig wood - Posted - 03/20/2021:  13:24:35


Just listened to the tunes..Clearly your style is reminiscent of one Chadwick Clearhouser, who stepped out from the infamous Tuttle Boys to go solo. Retired now, teaches ballroom dance at a nudist colony in Florida.

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 03/20/2021:  16:05:44


quote:

Originally posted by craig wood

Just listened to the tunes..Clearly your style is reminiscent of one Chadwick Clearhouser, who stepped out from the infamous Tuttle Boys to go solo. Retired now, teaches ballroom dance at a nudist colony in Florida.






Well... that is something to which to aspire, at least!  I'm going to file that under the category of "yet another reason why playing banjo and chatting about banjo is fun!"

craig wood - Posted - 03/21/2021:  05:33:37


Judson..im with you on that.

Hardwulf - Posted - 04/19/2021:  06:58:26


lol...I had the same expectation switching to tenor banjo from guitar. I thought “This will be an easy, seamless tradition!”

Nope. Every single tiny flub was amplified like never before. I’ve really had to take time to clean up my finger positioning and picking since taking it up. I never realized how sloppy my playing was before this.

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 04/21/2021:  15:41:41


quote:

Originally posted by Hardwulf

lol...I had the same expectation switching to tenor banjo from guitar. I thought “This will be an easy, seamless tradition!”



Nope. Every single tiny flub was amplified like never before. I’ve really had to take time to clean up my finger positioning and picking since taking it up. I never realized how sloppy my playing was before this.






No doubt on that!  Now, my issue is recording into a new laptop.  THe mic is even hotter!  I keep turning the input down and getting further waya, but each strum sound like I hit a piece of barn roof tin!

sethb - Posted - 04/21/2021:  16:00:46


quote:

Originally posted by JudsonCarroll

So... when I got my old Epiphone made Bruno, the first thing I had to face was the incredible volume. The little beast was designed to cut through a full band with no amplification. It is loud! It is mahogany and maple, a drum head, steel strings and bell brass and it is freaking loud! 






If loudness is a problem, you can always stuff one or two cotton dish towels inside the head, assuming that the banjo also has a resonator to help hold the towels against the underside of the head.  This will reduce vibration of the head, which should reduce your volume considerably, and without changing the tone of the banjo, which some bridge or string mutes will do.  SETH  

jan dupree - Posted - 04/21/2021:  16:08:58


My1929 Epiphone Concert Special is pretty loud too. I use a thin pick. I also have a clip on the bridge mute that was in the case when I bought it in 1974.

JudsonCarroll - Posted - 04/21/2021:  16:24:14


I've been trying various DIY mutes, but they all seem to kill the tone. Anyone know what kind of mute Eddie Peabody used on some of his recordings?

SunnylandBob - Posted - 04/23/2021:  14:08:14


For many years I've used Richelieu Master Mutes on all my banjos that can handle them. It has 3 rollers - two rubberized and one metal - and can be moved back & forth between the tailpiece and bridge to varying distances which creates differing mute levels and effects. A somewhat expensive accessory item usually running $25-40 but it is removable off one instrument to another. I first saw/heard it effectively used by the great Jimmy Mazzy - one of my several banjo idols - and greatly appreciate the flexibility and dynamics one can get by trying different positions with it. If a string breaks they can be a bit of a pain, but I've gotten good at removing it quickly, replacing the string & working mute-less while waiting for the next opportunity to reset the roller mute in place. Also note that when playing with louder less-dynamic bands, remove the mute entirely to maximize banjo volume.

Now about "...banjos that can handle them" - certain instruments are just not adaptable to these mutes for a variety of reasons all boiling down to a commonality of "It just don't fit right". (e.g. Not enough space between longer tailpieces & bridge, not enough clearance between strings and head surface, always mutes too much, etc.)

parlour player - Posted - 04/26/2021:  02:45:06


quote:

Originally posted by JudsonCarroll

I've been trying various DIY mutes, but they all seem to kill the tone. Anyone know what kind of mute Eddie Peabody used on some of his recordings?






As far as i know he used a modified violin rubber mute I also  use one .

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